Archive for the 'Review' Category

Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms Vol. 3 by Allen Ross

Commentary on Psalms by Ross Vol 3A Commentary On The Psalms, Volume 3: (90-150) by Allen P. Ross

Stay tuned for quotes from the commentary on this blog.

You can read the reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2 here on the blog.

I read the exposition of Genesis by Ross entitled Creation and Blessing and became a fan of him and his style. That exposition was perfect for me and my level of knowledge, as is this commentary/exposition of the Psalms. According to Ross it’s “for pastors, teachers and all serious students of the Bible.” This commentary isn’t quite as academic as Goldingay’s, but it’s also not for new Christians. It’s very thorough, and didn’t leave me wanting. In fact, he answers some questions I didn’t know I had.

Volume 3 is longer than the other two, coming in at over 1000 pages. It covers books IV and V of the Psalter. Like Volume 2, this doesn’t have the excellent introduction that’s in Volume 1. There is an Index of Hebrew Word Studies and a very extensive bibliography at the end, which the other two don’t have. Volume 3 is exactly the same color and height as Volume 1 and 2, so they will look good next to each other on your bookshelf. The cover art is on the cover itself, so it doesn’t have a dust jacket, which I like.

The first section for each Psalm is the Introduction, which includes Text and Textual Variants, and also includes the author’s own translation along with plenty of footnotes on words, phrases, and comparisons to the Hebrew version. This is very educational, and is but one of the strengths of the commentary. I always like reading the author’s translation. To me it’s like a bonus, since I enjoy comparing translations.

Next comes Composition and Context which is basically a short introduction with any information that will be helpful in understanding the Psalm as a whole. Then there is Exegetical Analysis which might have a short comment on the genre and structure, and then a short Summary with an outline. The commentary itself is titled Commentary In Expositional Form. Sometimes he will go verse by verse and sometimes groups of verses. He will spend as much or little time on a verse as warranted. He doesn’t pick out little things on simple words if the meaning is obvious. He seems to follow C.S. Lewis’ philosophy in not using big words when he doesn’t have to. A good commentator doesn’t need to show off their vocabulary just for the sake of it.

Although he interacts with other commentators, this isn’t a commentary on commentaries, or leave you wishing you would have just read the people he’s quoting instead of the book you bought.

He treats Psalm 119 with special care, which is something I was very glad to see. He has a longer introduction to this chapter than others, and defends its literary integrity and value.

His knowledge of Hebrew is very beneficial, especially because he explains it in a way that anyone can understand. For example, he mentions that there are eight words for the law. That’s why translations use words like precepts, word, statutes, commands, etc. He also often uncovers what a word would be if it were translated literally, like the Hebrew word for “kidneys”, which “is used commonly for the internal emotional being, the soul or spirit”. (Psalm 139:13) This is just one reason why there’s no such thing as a literal translation, but that’s a different story.

I’m not one to be able to comment on any theological bent regarding the Old Testament and Psalms in particular, other than he is evangelical. (Here is a good one on Amazon.) He seems very objective and doesn’t insert any obvious biases and slants. I think this makes it a great commentary for a wide audience.

If I could write anything at all negative it would be that the font size is actually a little larger than what I like, which is a plus for many people. Like his commentary on Genesis, it’s nearly perfect for me and if you buy it, I hope you feel the same. It’s not cheap and doesn’t come in Kindle format.

If the publisher wouldn’t have provided a free copy for an unbiased review, I would have bought it.

Book Review: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About

Book CoverWhat the New Testament Authors Really Cared About – A Survey of Their Writings (2nd Edition) by Kenneth Berding (Editor), Matt Williams (Editor)

When I had the opportunity to review this book, I took it without deliberating because I reviewed its predecessor, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, which I was very impressed with, and find very helpful as a reference tool.

Here is what the publisher, Kregel, says about this 2nd edition:

Now in hardcover, this second edition of What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About has a new cover and layout to correspond with the look of the popular companion volume, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About.

The artwork is on the hardcover, which I really like, instead of a dust jacket. The paper and everything else about it is very high quality. Color is used throughout making it pleasing to look at, and the table of contents has a list almost four pages long of maps, photographs, and tables, to give you an idea of how illustrative it is. As with most things “illustrated”, there are many photographs that are fillers–they could probably have been taken anywhere. I may have been more judicious and not have to have photos everywhere just because. On the other hand, it would be hard to find completely relevant photographs to find for every space that an image would occupy.

It’s a New Testament introduction (or survey) of sorts, but written by those who teach undergraduates as opposed to those in seminary or graduate courses. The audience is for the less scholarly inclined and more for the regular person who would like to get a good overview of each book of the New Testament, and specifically what each inspired author was conveying to their original audience. There are also “more than one hundred applications highlighted in sidebars to clarify how the New Testament authors might apply their writings to Christians living in the twenty-first century.”

I found some of it to be somewhat of a summary of the Biblical book, which is rather simple, but the majority is on what each author emphasizes and is conveying to his audience.

The book is generally theologically neutral, but is bent towards the Calvinist end. This may be more apparent in some of the usual areas.

The first chapter, Walking in the Sandals of a First-Century Jew, is extremely helpful. This provides a backdrop of where the authors are coming from and who some of their original audience is.

There is no introduction to the gospels, which I at first found puzzling. I then realized that the book is focused on each author. However, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About has a very helpful introduction to the minor prophets. I think one for at least the Synoptic Gospels would have been helpful to show the differences even more than the similarities. There is an introduction to Paul’s writings which is very informative.

For those who would like something other than the mammoth New Testament introductions, like deSilva’s–which I have–and is literally the biggest (tallest) book I have, but something more comprehensive than what a study Bible would have in their introductions to each book, this is a good fit. I’m very glad to have it as a reference book.

I received this book free from Kregel Academics for the purpose of reviewing it. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Academic; 2 edition (August 27, 2015)

Book Review: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind

Gods-Battle-Plan-For-The-MindGod’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton

This is one of the more important books I’ve read in a long time. We do hear about meditation, but it’s not emphasized enough, and seems like it’s certainly not practiced enough. The author’s goal in writing this book is “to convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation.” If you need any convincing of how important and beneficial meditation is, not to mention how it’s commanded and practiced by many inspired writers and people of faith in Scripture, you will most likely be convinced after reading this book, unless you just don’t care. The book also stresses that meditation is not for speculation or inquisitive thinking, but for practical matters and application to one’s behavior, which is another part of why the reader is left with how important this Biblical practice is. There are numerous short quotes on every page from well-known and not so well-known Puritans. Every one of them stresses the importance of meditation, but also stresses that the privilege becomes an enjoyable habit that benefits us and honors God.

The author doesn’t assume that everybody has a problem with meditating, which is refreshing. It bothers me when authors appear condescending when they assume that everybody has a problem with prayer, for example, when I know from experience that it isn’t true. David Saxton describes people who do meditate and how it greatly benefits them. The book is very encouraging and positive, although you may know how strict the Puritans can be in their descriptions of who godly people are, and what they do and don’t do.

Although it’s only 138 pages long, the book is pretty comprehensive in its treatment of meditation. I would call this a popular level book that’s easily understandable for anyone except a new believer. We learn about the unbiblical forms of meditation, which dispels any negative notions some may have when the word meditation is mentioned. Meditation is also called the doctrine of Biblical thinking, which may be a more helpful term for some people. Also written about are forms of meditation (like occasional and deliberate), types (Scripture, creature, and creation), reasons, benefits, difficulties and choosing what to meditate on.

One thing I didn’t see is how to progressively get into meditation for those who haven’t done this at all, similar to Nine Minutes With God – How to have a quiet time. Even though I often combine meditation and prayer, exactly what meditation is has always been kind of an enigma for me, and Saxton provides the reader with many valuable methods and helps, but many of the Puritans mentioned ‘an hour’, which might be a little scary for most of us. A guide on how to first start out would have been nice, since there really isn’t a lot of solid material out there on this subject.

I think the book could have been a little bit better organized and edited, but that doesn’t take away from the content. I’m sure the author had his reasons for the way he ordered things. Many times there was repetition. A quote from Watson appears on page 12 and 22 for example. Other concepts were repeated and could have been consolidated. You’ll find that chapter 9 is Reasons for Meditation, where I would have put it near the beginning. Types of meditation were near the beginning; I would have put them later on in the book. But it’s still all there and repetition can’t be that bad of a thing for learning.

There was almost no part of this book that left me uninterested (although I admit I skimmed the part about unbiblical meditation). It kept my interest the whole way through and has solid knowledge and wisdom throughout.

I would highly recommend this important book for anyone who isn’t already greatly benefiting from meditation or anyone who would like more perspective on what the Puritans think about this subject. I would give it 4 1/2 stars, but will round it up because of its importance.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an unbiased review.

Oh, remember this, the sweetness of religion is incomparably more than all the pleasures of sense.

–William Bates, On Divine Meditation, as quoted in God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, pg. 123

Buy it from Amazon: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton

Hasty Review: The Crook in the Lot

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston

I hesitate to put this review here. I posted in on Goodreads for myself as much as for others. It’s a hastily written review. I don’t want to spend any more time on it than this. The book was life changing for me. As suffering has increased in my life, God has been teaching me more and more about his sovereignty and providence as time goes on. Part of the reason it takes so much time is because my pride is involved.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

This verse is the premise of the book. Accepting our lot in life is one of its messages. Hopefully that will help you understand what crook and lot means if those terms are unfamiliar.

One of, if not the best book on dealing with affliction that I’ve read. It’s just what I’ve been looking for. Boston covers it from many angles. If you don’t come away more humble and God fearing after reading this book, you might not have understood it or been able to take in what he has to say at this point in your life.

This isn’t a modern ‘comfort’ book or seven steps to overcoming affliction. Some of the older English can be difficult, but I was able to get used to it.

As with most or all Puritans, everything is Scriptural based on how the author interprets it. Lowliness, glorifying God, and God’s ordaining of everything are stressed. I suppose for those who are ready for it, this book is comforting; at the same time, the truth isn’t always easy to accept.

I would obviously recommend this to anyone dealing with affliction, but also to anyone who isn’t, in order to prepare for what may come in life, and to learn more about God’s sovereignty and how we should live as God’s children.

See other reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Book Review: Philippians (The Story of God Bible Commentary) by Lynn Cohick

philippians-commentary-cover-linkPhilippians (The Story of God Bible Commentary) by Lynn H. Cohick

The introduction gets right to the main points of what the book is about. It compels you to read the book again. There is no need to entertain theories where there is a very small minority, like whether or not Paul wrote the letter.

“This commentary examines Paul’s teachings and biographical notes always with an eye to the church today–the men and women who desire a deeper relationship with God, a stronger foundation for their walk, and a clearer vision for God’s working in the world beyond their immediate circle.” This commentary series goes beyond exegesis and to what it means for today. Since the book is only 262 pages long, it doesn’t dwell on any one subject for very long, but deals with subjects and passages in a complete and satisfying way.

Other reviewers have written about the three sections for each passage of the book. Listen to the Story has the Bible text using the NIV 2011. I like it when the translator comes up with their own translation. But since there is minimal discussion of the Greek, an existing one works fine. When she does mention Greek, it’s always something helpful, usually regarding grammar, and like a good preacher, sometimes doesn’t even need to mention the specific words, as if to show off her knowledge. Adjustments are made when the commentator likes a different word better, like ‘slave’ instead of ‘servant’ (which I strongly agree with) in Philippians 1:1. There are cross references, and a synopsis of the passage that will be exposited in Explain the Story, which I would say is more exposition that exegesis, of every 1-4 verses. Live the Story is where plenty of space is used to go into what it means for today–usually picking out a single idea from the passage and writing about that throughout. This is somewhat limiting, but at the same time, thoroughly goes into the main subject matter of a passage–something that most commentaries don’t do any of, being mainly exegesis. This makes the series good for preachers and lay people who would like to connect the original meaning with how we can understand how it may relate to contemporary living. While I believe this is largely the work of the Holy Spirit related to an individual’s circumstances, the Holy Spirit also uses gifted teachers to point things out can help us learn to make these connections. She also writes about contemporary issues within the Explain the Text portion and isn’t afraid to bring up problems in the modern church similar to those that Paul addressed, and sometimes using modern analogies to explain something. So this commentary is thorough, yet not a more technical exegesis-only type of commentary either.

She has a way of coming at the Scripture with an open mind. At the risk of sounding like she’s wishy washy, she’ll say if she thinks that Paul may be intentionally ambiguous, like the well-known “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ” passage. She doesn’t see everything in black or white, or either or.

As far as where she comes from theologically, it’s hard to pin down, which I see as a good thing. I’m Reformed, but didn’t find anything real objectionable. There are minor things I disagreed with, but I’ll let other reviewers who are more qualified to comment on those things.

While this commentary won’t answer all of your questions satisfactorily, it’s a very good exposition for preachers and lay people to understand what Philippians is about, as opposed to a detailed exegesis of every verse. I would recommend it for those who are looking for that type of book.

This book was provided by the publisher through the Amazon Vine review program for an unbiased review.

Hardcover: 304 pages, also in Kindle format
Publisher: Zondervan (October 30, 2013)
Buy it from Amazon

Book Review: Titus For You by Tim Chester

Titus for YouTitus For You by Tim Chester The book is a book about a book about the gospel. Titus is about the gospel–all three chapters. Although Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint leaders, the book is “all about ensuring the gospel is central to the everyday life [sounds like many good books that have come out in the last few years] of the church, so that the world can be reached for Christ.” There is a great explanation of the gospel on pg 94-95. There is a brief, one page introduction to this series of books, then it goes right into a brief introduction to Titus before starting the section-by-section examination. It’s from a Reformed perspective, if that matters to you, but he doesn’t go heavily into doctrine or try to convince the reader of any specific theology. They say that “these books are not commentaries.” I would say this is an exposition of sorts, but not a verse by verse commentary. The book can be read through (at only 115 pages, including unnecessary text box pull quotes that quote what’s already in the book–magazine style), read in your own personal devotions, or used as a Bible study with questions for reflection at the end of each section.

The book takes us through Titus section by section. Verse references are bold, although the text of the Bible is not included, and any words that are rare or used differently in everyday language are gray when they first appear, and are explained in a glossary towards the end of the book. This includes explaining theological terms,  Christian lingo, and words or terms used in the Bible that new believers may be unfamiliar with. I think it’s a nice, user friendly feature. 

He often gives some helpful background and historical information. An example would be that Titus 1:12 is a quote from a Cretan philosopher, Epimenides, who basically says that they fit the stereotype that we now have. It doesn’t sound much like philosophy to me, but then he was a Cretan after all! There are some minor items in the book that aren’t to my liking, but overall, I learned a lot and think it’s a very good book. (Was I supposed to wait until the end to write that?) The first thing I didn’t like is right at the beginning in The Introduction To Titus, he starts out with a couple of paragraphs about the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, and then compares that with “what Paul is doing in the letter he writes to Titus.” I don’t like comparing movies to the Bible, even if it’s a wonderful movie. And even though he gives a short description of it, I would guess that many younger people haven’t seen it. Chester compares Titus with Acts. There’s a comparison I’m more satisfied with. He also refers to Ezekiel calling on the breath (or Spirit) of God to bring life to corpses as a comparison to preaching the gospel. Starting on page 57, he talks about “living the good life”. This sounds a little strange to me, almost like a beer commercial (Miller beer’s The High Life–which sounds a lot stranger today than it did back then) or something Joel Osteen would say. What he means is doing good works and living a godly life as laid out in Titus 2:1-10, which isn’t strange at all. Then he continually refers to living the good life throughout the rest of the book. The problem is if someone quotes a part of the book that has that phrase in it, or comes late to Bible study, or a number of other situations, the wording might sound strange without the context. A couple of other things I didn’t care for:

  • In Titus 2:4-5 he takes out the one idea of being busy at home and spends a full page on how wives, especially mothers, should forgo careers to stay at home. Not that I disagree, but he’s taking one or two things from each category and making a whole scenario out of it.
  • Sometimes he’s unnecessarily negative. “If you are in your twenties, do not live like a child–on your Xbox all the time.” Or, “I wonder how you think of God. Maybe he seems distant to you. Maybe he seems harsh or high handed. Or maybe you feel that he has forgiven you, so now he tolerates you.” However, out of that he does write extensively about enjoying God’s kindness.
I’ve always liked Titus, and that’s the reason I decided to review this book. I think it’s a good book for its intended purposes, and as mentioned, especially good for new believers. Some people might overlook Titus. If that’s the case, this is a good book in pointing out how it’s about the gospel and what Paul’s message to Titus–and everyone who reads it–is about. I think just about anyone could learn from it. The minor dislikes don’t detract from the main exposition about the book of Titus, which I think is well worth reading.
As of this writing, there are other books in this series covering Galatians, Romans 1-7 (by Timothy Keller), and Judges.

I received a free copy from The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an unbiased review.

You can find it at Amazon.com in hard cover or Kindle format.

Mini-Review: Thinking Rightly of Christ

Book - Thinking Rightly of ChristThinking Rightly of Christ: What Scripture Really Says about Him – And Why It Matters by Bryan Holstrom

Bryan Holstrom is a Ruling Elder at Covenant of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Batavia, Illinois. He is also the author of Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament. This was given to me by a blogger who attended his congregation. She offered three of his books to a couple of people in exchange for an unbiased review. (I only chose this one.) He is not well known, but he’s someone who is worthy to be read. This is somewhat of a dilemma in the publishing industry right now–sometimes big name authors are contracted to write books because of their name, or there are people with great content that nobody knows about yet, which can be harder to sell. You can read more about that at Jesus Creed.

The purpose of this book is to correct such deficient thinking about Christ, particularly among Christians, and to replace our false conceptions of his person and work with one befitting the Creator of the heaves and the earth, who upholds all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1:2-3). To that end, each of the twenty chapters seeks to expound upon a truth statement drawn directly from Scripture that touches upon the subject at hand.

I learned a lot in just in the first part of the book. The things written about are things that matter. I added subjects to Evernote like Why did John refer to Jesus as ‘The Word’?, the importance of the Trinity, Modalism, his interesting commentary on Footprints in the Sand, The Angel of the Lord, and an explanation of that old word begotten, just to name a few.

He doesn’t write cute or personal stories, but he’s not dry either. His writing is organized well, always Scriptural, and seems to use the right amount of words. As the book goes on, he seems to get a little unnecessarily polemic in my view. But other than that minor point, I got a lot out of this book, which is on one of my favorite subjects. I would highly recommend it for someone who is a Christian and familiar with Scripture, but not necessarily looking for an extremely scholarly tome on the subject of Christology. Any serious layperson is bound to learn from and enjoy it.

Paperback (Only): 308 pages
Publisher: Ambassador-Emerald International (June 24, 2010)

Find it at:
Amazon.com

Also see:
Blog Interview with Bryan Holstrom: Author of “The Gift of Faith” « The Reformed Reader

Book Review: What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About

what-the-old-testament-authors-really-cared-aboutWhat the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survery of Jesus’ Bible Edited by Jason S. DeRouchie

This is a very high quality book with a hardcover that has the art on the cover with no need for a dust jacket, and very nice, thick paper to display the high quality graphics and photos. The title is drawn from the companion New Testament volume–What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, which is something I’d like to get because of how much I like this one. Incidentally, one of the reviewers of that book would have liked a Summary at the end of each chapter, which is included in this book. The NT book was published in 2008 and this one in September of 2013.

This book comes highly recommended by people like by Piper, Block, Gentry, Naselli, Storms and J. Meyer (stands for Jason–did I scare you?) among others. The book is:

  • intentionally shorter–“synthesizes in 3-6 themes the lasting message of each book”
  • collaborative effort by many scholars and teachers to “communicate effectively to college and seminary students and within the local church, thus making it very readable for broad audiences.”

The book “attempts to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament.” I found this to be very consistent throughout the book. The consistency shows the quality of the editing.

Being an illustrative book, there are many helpful charts, timelines, inserts, and photographs. Regarding the photographs–I think that’s a tricky thing with these types of books and illustrated study Bibles. Some of the photos are very valuable, showing specific places that have architectural landmarks that are still in place today. Other times the photos could be of anywhere and seem to just be filler pieces. Photos with people in them (which are of course taken since photography was invented) are rather strange, even if it shows a few helpful items like men with phylacteries, which many of us are unfamiliar with. Overall they are helpful, and the photos used in this book are mostly very high quality. That’s the closet thing to anything negative I have to say about the book.

Since you can see the description and see inside the book online, I’d like to just point out a couple more areas of interest.

Boxed inserts like quotes on how the NT relates to the Old, or contemporary significance, or other topics, are spread throughout. It’s like a box of (high quality) chocolates, you never know what you’ll get.

I especially liked the chapter on Job. Having just read a commentary on it, I thought that Edward M. Curtis did a terrific job (see what I did?) in distilling what the book is about. A lot can be learned just from the synopsis of the book at the beginning of the chapter after the Who? When? Where? Why?

The Author of Job …

  • Affirmed Yahweh’s sovereignty over all things.
  • Showed that personal sin is not the only reason humans suffer.
  • Acknowledge humanity’s inability to fully grasp God’s work and purposes.
  • Recognized that God accepts the honest cries of his hurting people.
  • Clarified how to respond when God’s justice and goodness appear questionable.
  • Believed that people should fear God for who he is rather than for what he gives.

And then expounds on those topics both succinctly and with an obvious understanding of the book that I have found to be rare. Or maybe I just agree with his assessment, after having read so much about it. That can’t be easy with a book like Job. This is done consistently throughout the entire book.

One humorous thing I’d like to mention. The author of each chapter is listed on the top of every page. It reminds me of something Brian Reagan said: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS8E2_VE1gY – see it at 3:50 if you’d like. Some books put the book title at the top of every other page, as if one might forget. This book’s title would be a little cumbersome in that regard, although it’s an easier one to forget. It’s good to give the authors attribution though.

This is a book I love to have, especially for the Old Testament. It will be referred to much in the future. In fact, it’s almost something you’d like to keep on the coffee table, if only all of your guests were as interested in the Old Testament as you are.

Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Kregel Academic (September 24, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0825425913
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.8 x 1.3 inches

Find it at:
Amazon.com

Book Review: Why Christ Came-31 Meditations on the Incarnation

why-Christ-cameWhy Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation by Joel R. Beeke and Willaim Boekesten

I look forward to anything by Joel R. Beeke, President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I call him the busiest man in Christian publishing because he is authoring and editing so many new books each year and has resurrected so much Puritan material.

In the Preface, the author writes, “Learning the reasons for Christ’s advent will help us more deeply celebrate His birth, allow us to see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His ministry, and help us understand its importance for our lives.” I think the book succeeds very well in this objective.

However, I was rather taken aback by what he writes soon after, lamenting the general lack of knowledge and apologetics: “Suppose someone asked you, ‘Why did Jesus come to earth?’ You could probably come up with one or two reasons.” If you want to offend some of the readers, even if it’s a minority, that’s a pretty good way to do it. I read this paragraph a few times, hoping I was misunderstanding. That sounds very condescending to me. As an exercise, without having seen the table of contents yet, I thought of six major reasons Christ came. When I saw that some of the chapters were narrower in scope, I could come up with 6-10 more. One of my pet peeves is when authors make broad assumptions about the reader.

Thankfully that was an aberration–the only one that I saw. The whole book is very positive in tone and links why Christ came to how that affects our lives in a personal way.

Each chapter is about three pages long and is titled “To…”, stating a purpose, with a verse or passage of Scripture, sometimes two, as a heading. The content of each chapter is topical, based on the chapter title. It’s meaty material. It would be difficult to write fluff based on Why Christ Came, but I’m sure there are plenty up to the task (down to the task?). But not here. There are a few anecdotes sprinkled in, but not as much as you would find in most devotional material. There are also some quotes from Reformed theologians from the past, the Heidelberg Catechism, and often a versification of part of a Psalm at the end of a chapter. And there is a lot of Scripture. Everything written is backed up by the Bible.

There are a few end notes, but they are only for sources of quotes. All Scripture references and quote authors are noted in the text of the chapter.

There are only two other very minor negatives or things I would change based on my preferences. First of all, using the KJV. I have no problem with the translation. It’s wonderful. But some of the verses quoted in key areas were totally lost on those not well versed (get it?) in 17th century English, like “sore amazed”, quoting Mark 14:33 on pg 3. One of these centuries, I think we’re going to have to get past this. The other is that some of the chapter’s content will wander from the title, even within the three pages. I don’t think this is really a problem, since the book most likely won’t be used as reference material. It would seem a bit more organized and focused if the author kept the material closer to the title or used a different title.

But that was a long paragraph on a couple of tiny nitpicks. This is an unusual devotional in that it teaches the reader so much and pulls together so much Scripture in only three pages for each subject. I hope people don’t think of this as a “Christmas Devotional”, because it’s something that should be meditated on all the time and can also be kept for when wanting to read something short. It’s one that could always be left on the coffee table or nightstand.

This book was provided by Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for a fair review.

You can find this at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.

Quick Thoughts on Walton’s Commentary on Job

I wanted to write a quick few sentences of what I thought of Job by John H. Walton over at Goodreads.com, and it ended up being a little longer, so I thought I’d post it here. It’s not a polished review with complete sentences. I will be offering a few good quotes from it soon.

book-job-nivac-walton

This is a very complete commentary on a difficult book. I didn’t feel wanting at all. Some deep writing for being NIVAC. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the book now. The running commentary of the real ‘suffering woman’ was something that I benefitted from. I know that not everyone appreciated this in a commentary, but it would be easy to skip over. He wrote a very good part near the end on what Job is about. He wrote with a lot of clarity on a book that at first appears to have little. He also wrote about interpreting Scripture, so there are other benefits too. His theology, which has God not quite as sovereign as I would have Him, or not quite as much in control of smaller things, disagrees with mine, but that is of little significance, because I can disagree with him on some minor matters and still learn just as much.

This and the commentary on Revelation are definitely hits for the NIVAC series.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About?

Book Review: Jesus On Every Page by David Murray

Book Cover - Jesus On Every Page by David Murray Jesus On Every Page by David Murray

The author writes: “Some surveys put the ratio of Old Testament to New Testament sermons at 1 to 10. Some would like it nearer 0 to 10. But might this imbalance in the spiritual diet of most Christians explain many of the spiritual problems in the modern church and in modern Christians? Or as theologian Gleason Archer put it: ‘How can Christian pastors hope to feed their flock on a well-balanced spiritual diet if they completely neglect the books of Holy Scripture on which Jesus and all the New Testament authors received their own spiritual nourishment?’”

In addition to this book being about what the title says, it’s a book about recovering the Old Testament in general. I love the Old Testament and am so glad to read what David Murray has to say. In the first chapter, after the quote above, he offers a litany of reasons as to why we have lost the interest in and importance of the Old Testament. He’s not overly polite in this area, and it’s a needed admonition. At one point I thought he was being a little on the negative side, but then I’m already biased in believing how important the Old Testament is.

That’s just the first chapter. I very much appreciate the first portion of this book which is not just introductory material. In Part I: My Road To Emmaus, he writes about how when he was a younger lad, he reluctantly became a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament in a small Scottish Presbyterian denomination. This started a study of a subject he first dreaded, but quickly began to enjoy.

The way the book is written is as if he’s in a living room speaking with a variety of people. The newer believers will be able to understand him enthusiastically teaching them, and the more knowledgeable Christians will learn a great deal as well. He writes about the Old Testament from the perspective of Jesus, Peter, Paul and John, and how they utilized the Old Testament (a lot!).

In the chapter on Paul, he wrote, “I decided…” when discovering something about how the Old Testament was quoted. This sounded rather strange, as if he was going about this on his own and not using the wisdom of the church universal to confirm his findings. But this was quickly dispelled, as before this and throughout the rest of the book, he provides ample quotes from people like Christopher Wright, Jonathan Edwards, and many more. Murray is an educated learner, being a Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, having pastored two churches in Scotland and recently starting a new pastorate. So he is teaching us from his own knowledge gained, but providing additional sources of information, which also provides the reader with a nice bibliography. The references are contained in the oft complained about end notes, including Scripture references.

For those willing to read about this subject, this will be highly valuable in understanding the importance of reading and studying the Old Testament. (Also see: 7 Reasons To Study Your Old Testament)

I wanted to write mainly about the first portion of the book since you will find plenty of reviews about the rest of it. As I was reading the second portion, I found myself not just learning about Jesus in the Old Testament, but also how to read and interpret the Old Testament, which is fantastic. The book has more to offer than just what the title suggests. I highly recommend it.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I also read David Murray’s short book Christians Get Depressed Too which was surprisingly good, since I expected it to be too basic. He’s also one of my favorite bloggers and Twitterers.

See the book’s web site Jesus on Every Page : Dr. David Murray

The book can also be found at Amazon.com

Book Review: The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

the-handy-guide-to-new-testament-greekThe Handy Guide to New Testament Greek Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming by Douglas S. Huffman

I am a Greek student who is nearing the end of what would typically be a year of beginning Greek. This handbook is geared for “second-year Greek students (and beyond), pastors, teachers and preachers.” It’s a handbook of helpful tools as opposed to “explanatory tales”, and supplements the Greek grammars well. It does go more in-depth when it comes to diagramming however. The three large categories it covers are Greek Grammar Reminders, Greek Syntax Summaries and the previously mentioned Phrase Diagramming, in addition to a bibliography. There are many helpful tips along the way like the AAA rule. Adjective preceded by an Article is Attributive.

This is a quality handbook in every respect. The writing is clever at times but serious. The paper is thick, and although it’s paperback, it should hold up decently if well traveled. Color is used well throughout. You can see a PDF excerpt starting at page 13. Two small complaints I would have are sometimes medium/dark orange is used with a lighter orange background and is a little hard to read. This may be difficult for those who are color blind, so be sure to see the PDF file. There is also some text that’s very small, even for younger eyes. There is a quote on page 79 that’s sitting in the middle of a page with plenty of white space around it with text that’s much smaller than necessary.

From my level of learning, this looks like an excellent guide for all of the subjects mentioned. This small sized book is only 112 pages including the bibliography, but seems longer. Tables and text explanation are interspersed and are very easy to understand and decipher. The layout of the tables is excellent.

I especially like the phrase diagramming portion. They use 1 Peter 1:3-9, which I happened to do in English (PDF file) a few years ago. As mentioned, there is much more explanatory text here, although it’s somewhat between a guide/handbook and something that would be a section in a textbook on exegesis. I’m not sure if this guide is the place for it, but I especially like it because I like to look at as many methods and descriptions of diagramming as I can. Four methods are briefly explained, Technical, Phrase and Semantic Diagramming, with Arcing mentioned. “An adaptation of phrase diagramming that incorporates some of the broader concerns of semantic diagramming is favored here.” The reader is taken step by step through the passage, building on what needs to be identified, divided and connected.

There is also an extensive six page bibliography at the end for all sorts of Greek and New Testament Tools. The section on the dreaded Greek-English Interlinears has four entries. I would have added a fifth, being the Mounce/Mounce Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (NASB/NIV) which also has Mounce Sr.’s English translation along with the Greek. (Don’t worry, I never use it to cheat.)

I would highly recommend this handbook. I have a Greek grammar with a lot of Post-it® Flags in it for various tables and declensions, but this guide can replace that and would lighten up many peoples’ load on the go if they don’t need a grammar on paper just to look these types of things up. I’m certain I will be using it a lot in the coming years.

The author, Douglas S. Huffman, serves as Professor and Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

You can buy it at Amazon.com

I received this book at no charge as a review copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.

Also see:

Book Review: 90 Days Thru the Bible

90-days-through-the-bible90 Days Thru the Bible: A Devotional Journey from Walk Thru the Bible by Chris Tiegreen

This book is for people who have read at least some of the Bible in the past and know some of the very basic ideas of Christianity, and terms we use and find in the Bible. I think anyone who is other than a brand new Christian or advanced theologian could benefit from it.

In the Introduction, the author writes about how “The pages of many Bibles are ruffled in predictable spots and pristine in equally predictable spots.” I’ve seen people chuckle at this regarding their own Bible, but I think it’s a pretty serious indictment on how low of a view many people have of the book that they claim to base their life on.

Tiegreen stresses how important it is to read the whole thing, but I don’t think he does this enough. I think it should be emphasized how imperative it is to read the whole Bible and not just use this book as ‘Cliff’s Notes for the Bible’, which I would be afraid that many people would. The reason I write this is because he does such a good job at summarizing the Bible and meeting his objective of the book being “an overview, but it’s designed to go much deeper than that–more like admiring the beauty of each piece of a puzzle and contemplating how it contributes to the whole picture. In the process, we will encounter the major characters, events, and themes of the Bible and discover a divine flow that connect them all.”

As he does this, it becomes inconsistent in how he goes about it–sometimes just writing an overview, sometimes giving Scripture references as “takeaways”, sometimes providing application for today, etc. This may not be a bad thing. Not every book of the Bible is consistent with each other either, and it may be the variety some people need. At the same time, the book is in a very pleasing and easy to read flowing narrative style, without information presented using bulleted lists, tables, etc.

I also wonder if someone would be wanting to add to their reading if they’re reading the Bible in 90 days. Why 90 days? This overview could be used with any reading plan. As it turns out, he does have a book titled The One Year Walk with God Devotional: 365 Daily Bible Readings to Transform Your Mind and at 720 pages (this one is 256), would give him more time to develop his objective plus it’s extremely highly rated. This may sound cynical, but it seems that it has become popular for publishers to put out condensed or abridged versions of other books. In this case that would be counter-intuitive though, because someone who would want to read the Bible in 90 days (I wonder how many people really will–cynical again) wouldn’t shy away from the 720 page book. I have no idea of the content of the other one.

I think the strength of this book, other than him doing a good job of what he set out to do, are the chapters on the Gospels. The author does a great job of describing what each one is focused on and it gives the reader a great picture of the differences between them.

He also gives a sense of the chronology when weaving through the various books which we know aren’t in chronological order of events.

I think this is a very good book, even if inconsistent and this reviewer wondering why a 90 day version was put out after a denser 365 day book. If you are looking for a good, short synopsis of the true story of Scripture, no matter your reading plan, this would be a good choice.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a free copy of this book for the purpose of my unbiased review.

Find it at:
Amazon.com

Mini-Review: Being Well When We’re Ill by Marva Dawn

This is one of the more complete books on suffering that I’ve read, and pertains directly to dealing with chronic suffering. The book is thoroughly Biblical and steeped in Scripture. And although I disagree with much of her theology (I’m Reformed, she’s an Arminian brand of Lutheran or something along those lines), most of that is secondary. She repeats some terms like Trinitarian God and meta-narrative ad nauseum, but that’s a minor nitpick.

Marva Dawn is someone who suffers from multiple chronic conditions herself, so she speaks from experience and this is part of why the book is thorough. She offers words of comfort, encouragement and sympathy but doesn’t go too far. The book is very well organized and edited, with just the right amount of words. She writes equally about physical and psychological suffering from an orthodox Christian perspective. Despite a few catch phrases that I don’t like (going along with some of the theology I disagree with), Dawn knows her Scripture and it’s evident that she is good with using it in context and interpreting it well while applying it to the situation of a sufferer.

I would recommend this very complete, encouraging, educational and Scriptural book to anyone who is suffering, wants to understand those who do, or anyone who just wrestles with the subject.

Marva Dawn

A couple of quotes:

One of my biggest problems in dealing with the breakdown of my body is that I keep looking in the wrong direction. I look to the past and the capabilities I once had, instead of looking to the future and what I will someday become in the presence and by the grace of God. Perhaps that is the strongest temptation for you too. Our culture reinforces that mistake by its refusal to talk about heaven, as if it were an old-fashioned and outdated notion. We also intensify the problem by craving present health (as limited as it can be) more than we desire God.

A friend once said to me. “This is so hard getting old—there are so many things we can‘t do any more. I guess the Lord wants to teach us something.” Indeed, our bodies will never be what they previously were, and we find that difficult because we miss our former activities. But God wants to teach us to hunger for Him, our greatest treasure. Instead of rejecting the notion of heaven, we genuinely ache in our deepest self to fill that concept with a larger landscape of the Joy of basking in God‘s presence.

–Marva Dawn, Being Well When We’re Ill, pg 231

On feeling guilty about lack of ‘productivity’:

In a time of infirmity, the illness IS one’s work. Taking care of all the disciplines that our health problems require IS the other part of the small daily fidelity to which we are called, beside the faithfulness of being attentive to God. We can be well simply by our diligence in being who we are at the moment.

–Marva Dawn, Being Well When We’re Ill, pg 137

Mini-Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

How can a 40 page book be so life changing? In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Timothy Keller expounds on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7. He fully explains what Paul means by not caring what others think about him, how a court would judge him, and doesn’t even judge himself.

He explains that neither high or low self esteem are legitimate. The only thing that matters is what the Lord thinks of us. And that is based on the gospel. Because God imputes his righteousness to us when we are born again, we can do things for the joy of doing them, not because we want to build our self esteem or even try to become more humble.

With the gospel, the verdict comes first, then the performance follows. Jesus went on trial for us. All that matters is how He sees us.

This would be good to read multiple times, maybe once a year.

It’s only $2.74 at Westminster Book Store. Buy them for your friends. The Kindle edition is often on sale for 99 cents. This was a sermon and may be online somewhere in audio form.